Volunteers are the heartbeat of many an animal welfare organization, and Kansas City Pet Project’s volunteers proved their mettle during the organization’s efforts in the 2014 ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge.
KCPP, a nonprofit, open admission shelter in Kansas City, Missouri, won the Challenge’s “Community Engagement Award”—a $25,000 grant, plus an additional $5,000—for a total of $30,000, for doing the best job of getting its community involved in saving more animals: 1,989 cats and dogs were saved during the three-month contest, an increase of 491 animals over the same period in 2013.
The prize was presented October 7 in person—to KCPP shelter executives, staff and more than 50 volunteers—by ASPCA representatives.
“We could never have done this without our volunteers,” said Kelly Walsh, KCPP’s volunteer coordinator, beaming with pride and recalling how volunteers promoted KPCC’s initiatives non-stop during June, July and August.
KCPP took in more than 1,000 pets per month during June and July, coinciding with the shelter’s busiest intake months of the year. “We then broke adoption records in July and again in August,” said Tori Fugate, KCPP’s manager of marketing and development.
“We hardly have any advertising budget, so we rely heavily on social media,” she continued, explaining that KCPP’s public Facebook page increased its members by 86 percent (17,000) during the contest. KPCC also has private Facebook pages for each of its adoption locations so volunteers may spread the word about foster opportunities, the need for drivers, or shelter wish lists. “We post adoption and intake numbers daily,” Tori added. “We keep our volunteers informed and updated all the time.”
Tori also credits large organizations like the Kansas City Royals—current World Series contenders—who supported KCPP during the Challenge. “They were huge; one of their staff even adopted a dog from us,” she said. Other major organizational support came from Sprint, the Kansas City Visitors Association, and Boulevard Brewing Company, among others. KCPP also ran cross promotions with other shelters, elementary schools and local businesses.
All the while, volunteers continued their groundswell of buzz and heavy lifting. The result: Newsletter subscribers increased 67 percent (4,000), and volunteers multiplied. By the end of the Challenge, 296 new volunteers had signed on.
Chad Ackerman, director of institutional research at Park University, serves as volunteer community outreach coordinator for KCPP. “We worked hard expanding our presence, especially north of the river,” explained Chad, who organizes adoption efforts at KCPP’s 4,400-sq.-ft. storefront center in Zona Rosa, north of town, where 533 animals were adopted during the Challenge.
Volunteers also helped drum up the 13,695 votes that helped clinch the shelter’s award. A gigantic sheet cake, complete with those seven digits squiggled in orange frosting, was presented to KCPP by the ASPCA before being cut and distributed by Teresa Johnson, KCPP’s CEO/executive director, who explained how the much-needed funding would be put to use.
“Our medical fund always needs money,” she said. “Saving lives is expensive. We treat parvo, heartworm, animals with broken legs and other injuries; everything that’s treatable.”
“This is a big city and we’re a new organization—we’ve had to change our image,” added KCPP board president Brent Toellner, who founded KCPP with his wife, Michelle Davis, in January 2012. “We showed our community that we care about animals, and it’s been great to have volunteers and others involved and be part of our progress.”
Beth Rice, who has volunteered at KCPP for just over a year, told how the sheer number of kittens coming in during the summer months convinced her to foster. She recalled how KCPP took in one to two litters of kittens per day—1,200 under the age of three months—during the Challenge.
“We were bottle feeding all summer long,” said Beth, as she monitored her Facebook feed closely before KCPP’s award was announced. A message appeared—from another volunteer: “Still waiting to hear the news! Did we win???” it read. “Yes!!!” Beth excitedly typed back.
“I’m just a volunteer, but I say that with pride,” she said.
As the fifth and final ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge draws to a close, we couldn’t be more excited to celebrate the accomplishments of Challenge contestants across the country. Over the course of five spirited competitions, Challengers worked tirelessly to break their own adoption records and win prizes in the form of ASPCA grant funding, resulting inmore than 282,000 animals saved.
In 2014 alone, 50 Challenge contestants saved more than 68,000 animals’ lives in just three months—a combined increase of nearly 17,000 more lives saved than the same period in 2013. We are truly impressed by the dedication, hard work and creativity these shelters employed in order to find loving homes for thousands of animals in need.
Congratulations to our 2014 Challenge winners, and to all those who competed over the past five years. You deserve a round of applause!
Guest blog by Matt Bershadker, ASPCA President & CEO
Renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead once famously said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Mead was talking about improving the world for humans, but it’s just as relevant and accurate when we talk about improving the world for animals.
Across the country, animal welfare advocates and shelters are uniting to defy the idea that we can’t do more to significantly reduce the need for euthanasia. The truth is we can do better, inspire more, and increase the number of lives we save year in and year out. We must, given the millions of lives still at stake, and so many people who care.
Nowhere is that truth more obvious than in the results of our ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge, which ends a remarkable five-year run this year. Since 2010, hundreds of Challenge contestants have dedicated themselves during June, July, and August to increase their adoption numbers over the previous year. They saved thousands of lives through hard work, creativity, collaboration, and a complete dedication to not only achieving success, but to redefining what’s possible.
This summer alone, 50 competing shelters saved 16,789 more lives than they did last summer, which is more than twice the increases we saw when we started in 2010. The overall results are even more staggering. From 2010 to 2014, Challengers saved more than 282,000 lives, an increase of nearly 60,000 cats and dogs, with dozens of animal shelters increasing their adoptions by 100 percent or more compared to previous years.
Saving lives is the most critical part of this program, but the positive effects of community dedication go beyond that. In these engaged cities and towns, local adopters are honored, and animal adoption is celebrated. Effective adoption tactics are shared widely, so that shelters from coast to coast—be they well-resourced or struggling to handle intake—can benefit. In the end, success is not restricted to a single moment for one community or shelter. Instead, seeds are planted well into the future for longstanding commitment across the country.
This is our hope, and this is our expectation. Because if we’ve learned anything from the ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge—and the nearly 300,000 families who opened their hearts and homes to cats and dogs— it’s that thoughtful, committed shelters and engaged communities can indeed transform the world.
The Community Engagement Award will be given to the organization that that did the best job of involving its community in saving more lives during the Challenge. The Award recipient will receive $25,000 in grant funds from the ASPCA. The three finalists were determined by a two-week online voting contest.
Time flies when you’re having fun: Competing shelters in the 2014 ASPCA Rachael Ray $100K Challenge are nearing the finish line, and we couldn’t be more excited to share that in June and July, the Challengers saved a total of 43,959 animals’ lives! The Challenge shelters achieved this by adopting out or reuniting pets with their guardians—and they saved over 9,000 more lives than during the same two months last year.
We’d like to congratulate the shelters in each division that saved the most additional cats and dogs by the end of the first two months of the Challenge: